An uncommon pardon signed by both Madison and Secretary of State James Monroe.
The schooner George Washington was owned and captained by noted Philadelphia merchant Uriah Phillips Levy, and had a crew of six men. On July 15, 1811, after picking up casks of wine and $2500 hard coinage (about $50,000 today) at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, the ship went to the Cape Verde...
The schooner George Washington was owned and captained by noted Philadelphia merchant Uriah Phillips Levy, and had a crew of six men. On July 15, 1811, after picking up casks of wine and $2500 hard coinage (about $50,000 today) at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, the ship went to the Cape Verde Islands and came into port. On January 9, 1812, Levy went to pay a visit to another ship, being rowed in by two of the men. When he sought to return, the ship was gone; a search revealed the cables had been cut. On board the schooner, chief mate Samuel Tully had taken over and ordered the men to hoist the sails, which the two rowmen refused to do and instead insisted on taking the small rowboat and leaving the ship. The cook John Owen wanted to join them, but Sully said no. Now there were just Tully, his helper John Dalton, a cook and a seaman named George Cummings. The ship put to sea, Cummings, who was not part of the plan to seize the ship, became uneasy with what was happening, and about two weeks into the venture fought with Sully. Sully and Dalton threw him overboard and left him to die at sea. Upon reaching port, the cook, also not involved in the scheme, was given a few dollars to keep him quiet, and Sully and Dalton kept the rest and concocted a cover story. However, Owen was simply not able to live with the deeds and the lies, and soon approached an American captain moored in the same harbor and told him the truth. Dalton and Sully were arrested and returned to the United States for trial.
The grand jurors returned three bills of indictment, one for piratically and feloniously running away with the schooner George Washington from the care of her master, and taking the casks of wine and cash on board; another was for the murder of George Cummings on the high seas; and the third for feloniously scuttling and casting away the vessel. The men plead not guilty. At the trial, Levy and the cook appeared as witnesses, and the men were convicted and sentenced to death. Dalton’s attorney had made the point that Dalton was not a principal, but an accessory, and should be treated differently than Sully; this distinction would in time save Dalton’s life. The executions were scheduled for December 10, 1812, in Boston. The trial is included in the book, American State Trials: A Collection of Important and Interesting Criminal Trials.
Dalton sought presidential intervention to prevent his execution. Document signed as President, Washington, December 18, 1812. “Whereas, it has been made appear to me that a seaman, John Dalton, was, at a Circuit Court of the United States lately held for the District of Massachusetts, upon a certain John Dalton, who was convicted of piracy, which sentence was to have been executed upon him on the 10th day of December instant; and whereas the President of the United States did respite the execution of the said sentence until the 10th day of January next and he thought proper further to respite the same; Now be it known that I James Madison, President of the United States of America, for diverse good causes and considerations, do hereby further respite the execution of the said sentence until the 14th day of January next ensuring.” The pardon is countersigned by Secretary of State James Monroe, and the seal of the United States is still intact. Some text loss affecting a few minor words and not near the signature.
So Dalton was reprieved, and would in time be pardoned. Tully was hung as scheduled, with an estimated 15,000 people in attendance at the gallows. That would be almost half the population of the town at the time.
This is an uncommon pardon signed by Madison and Monroe. A search of public sale records going back 40 years turns up only two having reached that market.
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